So, researchers are making impressive progress in the search for cure of the dreaded HIV/AIDs.

Now, their research is beginning to point to the fact that treating people as soon as they get infected with HIV, can lead to permanent elimination of the virus.

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The researchers came to this conclusion after a South African girl became the third child to beat the AIDS virus into long-term remission -- almost nine years and counting -- after receiving a drug cocktail in infancy.

The child was given a ten-month course of anti-AIDS medicine until she was one-year old, then taken off the drugs as part of a medical trial.

Eight years and nine months later, the virus is still dormant and the girl healthy without needing treatment, a research team reported at the International AIDS Society conference on HIV science in Paris.

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"This new case strengthens our hope that by treating HIV-infected children for a brief period beginning in infancy, we may be able to spare them the burden of life-long therapy," said AIDS expert Anthony Fauci. He also serves as Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) which funded the study.

Some scientists refer to sustained, drug-free remission as a "functional cure".

Unlike a traditional cure, where the virus is eradicated, the patient still has HIV in their system but it is so weakened that it cannot replicate or spread to sexual partners.